Mad as Hell?
Remember the movie “Network”? Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch: “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take it Any More.”
The housing collapse, Fannie Mae collapse, AIG $100-plus billion credit default swap collapse, Lehman Brothers vanishes like a Pacific coast mansion falling into the sea, Bear Stearns turns into dust like an Evolution: Underworld vanishing-vampire image, banks refuse to lend to each other, every Wall Street institution except the giant-sucking-machine Goldman Sachs teeters on the edge of oblivion. Insurance giants, monuments of prudent investing, were staring, hypnotized, into a whirlpool. Mutual funds were melting like puddles of snow in a heat wave.
This was our reality in late 2008 and most of 2009. If you had cash you could steal cars from dealerships populated only by a janitor and a service manager; everyone else had gone home. I bought a new $42,000-plus SUV for $32,000 and got a ticker-tape parade for the purchase.
Reagan’s “rising tide lifting ships” metaphor, never very real, was surrendering to “sinking tides.”
If the dealerships resemble mortuaries, the factories have no place to send the cars and trucks. Is it time to panic? Remember the images of huge storage lots filled with surplus Fords in early 2009 because no one was buying them?
The factories were making things no one wanted or could buy. But if they went down, they would drag a lot of detritus into the whirlpool: thousands of dealerships and their employees. A lot of people would be mad as hell if that happens.
Rocket intelligence is not required to quickly deduce that letting GM and Chrysler vanish into dust would wipe out suppliers, vendors, salesmen, dealers, families, sons and daughters going to college, retirees and janitors.
Clint Eastwood, whose wind-blasted craggy visage lends itself to exploitation as being genuinely earned, first opposed taxpayer bailouts of car companies whose primary sins were catering to customers, now takes money to lend his earnest endorsement to the renaissance of Chrysler. I could not help but like the ad; I too yearn for a better day in America.
People like Eastwood, who deplore government intervention at the time and then later celebrate the effectiveness of decisions taken by people who actually had the guts to take the risk, lack the very character which they retrospectively package for a cheap sale.
But what is worse is people like Mitt Romney, who had no skin in the game, basking in the sun of economic recovery because President G.W. Bush signed the TARP bill among other things to save our economy from the abyss, now plays both ends against the vanishing point. Mitt, whose dad governed a state prospering because our economic system had not yet invented WMDs to enrich Wall Street greedophiles as they destroyed our basic economies, finds a way after time has passed and the car companies survived, to pander to a political fantasy. After the fact, after the bailout saved GM, isn’t it cheap, pandering to Ron Paul’s supporters, to disavow the GM “bailout.” If he were alive, George Romney would kick Mitt’s ass, maybe not for the first time. He’d be mad as hell.
President Obama’s photo should be proudly on display at every GM and Chrysler dealership in the country. Why? Because he did what needed to be done.
I can’t prove the next sentence; history is what it is, not what it might have been. But if Mitt Romney had been sitting in the Oval Office with the Chair of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Secretary and a few other smart people in 2009, there is no doubt that he would have jumped in to save GM and Chrysler, just like the real President did.
You can spend your federal dollars on saving huge fundamental industries from collapse, or you can spend those dollars on welfare for the millions of people thrown out of work because huge networks of industries went down. I prefer the former, and history has borne this out.
Mitt, to what extreme levels will you abase yourself? Do you want our economy to fail so you can be elected, or do you want it to succeed? Read last week’s Fortune Magazine, analyzing your platform. Then give us a real economic plan, not slogans.
As much as I disagree with Rick Santorum, at least he has principles.
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